Ah, good old dependable post-relationship misery. The kind that indie rock thrives on. And with an album title like The Midnight Organ Fight it looks like we’re in for another round. Luckily, the men behind this title are capable of great things, and Frightened Rabbit have satisfyingly followed up their wonderful debut Sings the Greys. Continuing their focus on break-ups, dramatic drums, and light melodies, this album essentially runs the course, but overall the sounds are more polished and complete.
If you haven’t been introduced to this group yet, they started trickling into US ears via music bloggers last year with the much buzzed UK release of their debut. With the original effort releasing only a very select amount of copies, the album was picked up by FatCat Records and re-mastered for a US Release in the fall of 2007. Their newest record follows quickly with a focus on developing a heavier pop aesthetic. The band also wanted to specifically devote a large amount of time in preparation for recording, and the result doesn’t let down.
Generally speaking, the album sticks to pretty much the same blueprint as Sing the Greys. The Midnight Organ Fight maintains a similarly adventurous drive, and further highlights their strength in churning out pop/rock anthems. Loaded with guitars, drums, piano, and Scott Hutchinson’s throaty Scottish accent, you don’t even notice that Frightened Rabbit is without a bass player. But that’s their choice, and they instead rely on relentless drums and strong guitar melodies to create depth. The lovely thing about this group is that the three-member ensemble succeeds on all styles: bare tracks that are short and simplistic, while also pumping out songs that seem larger than life.
“The Modern Leper” kicks things off with a persistent melody and an upbeat harmony that is contrasted with darker lyrics. Hutchinson comments on repetition and this idea of cyclical pain with “I cut off my foot to spite my leg / Is that you in front of me? / Coming back for even more of exactly the same / You must be a masochist to love a modern leper on his last leg”. It’s a lovely dualistic theme that runs throughout the record: tireless beats with upbeat pop serving as the backdrop to more sinister and pained expressions. This is an ingredient that Frightened Rabbit soars on. They succeed in avoiding sugar comatose pop, and instead unveil something dissonant on top of catchy and brighter harmonies.
Another one of Frightened Rabbit’s strengths is Hutchinson’s lyrics. Having previously mentioned “The Modern Leper”, Hutchinson excels with relationship commentary, but regardless of subject, he pens honest and unfiltered words. In “Heads Roll Off” he opens with an extremely attention-grabbing line: “Jesus is just a Spanish boy’s name / How come one man got so much fame?” From touchy religious commentary to “I might not want you back but I want to kill him”, the listener may not always know what’s going to come out of Hutchinson’s mouth, but they can rest assured that it’ll be blunt and sincere.
The album opening is great, and other successful tracks include my personal favorite, “Fast Blood”, where the title The Midnight Organ Fight is explained. The first handful of songs are explosive and pulsating, and as the album develops, the tunes become a bit softer and evolve into a number of ballads. Only one track has the potential to take the audience out of the complete listening experience. “My Backwards Walk” is one of the slower tracks, and is fine enough, but an odd electronic sound finishes the track with drum machines and distorted vocals. It comes across as an awkward attempt to resemble Postal Service and doesn’t really fit in with the album as a whole.
Frightened Rabbit have survived the sophomore slump and chased their debut with an impressively strong album. The Midnight Organ Fight is cleaner, more polished, and establishes that the group is indeed maturing, but thankfully not losing themselves. They picked up where they left off, hit the ground running, and completed an album that will remind you of why you fell in love with them in the first place. Grab The Midnight Organ Fight. Relocate Sings the Greys. And spread the love, because these men should not be limited only to web-savy music bloggers.
// Notes from the Road
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